Wednesday, June 11, 2014

“For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to be what God wants us to be.” ― Thomas Merton

Since I became a Christian in 1990 (yes, I was 46 years old), I have become convinced that if you are doing what pleases God—He sends you “thank you” notes.  Sometimes little things, sometimes big things, but always things that make you smile, feel good about yourself and your direction, and reinforce that whatever sacrifices or suffering you have had to endure—it was worth it, for it pleased God.  Our original plans for our mission here (note that I said “our” plans) were to have mission teams come from the U.S. three or four times a year and to use those teams to accomplish the goals WE had made.  This sort of worked for about three years and then the bottom dropped out of the economy in 20008, the groups from America stopped coming, the funding fell off sharply, and we had to retrench, regroup, and rethink what we were doing here.  We continued with our school, our scholarship program at Bunda Teacher’s College, our sanitation and hygiene seminars, and our biosand filter production, but we had guest cottages that slept sixteen that were sitting empty and many repairs and needs for new equipment that we couldn’t afford.  I don’t know for sure what started our new direction, but I think I know when it began.  I had to have prostate surgery in February of 2013 a month later flew back to Boston to be named a distinguished alumnus of the Boston University School of Theology and make presentations to the students and staff as well as to be named “missionary in residence” and have individual appointments with students considering mission.  This was in April of 2013.  The Global Center for Christianity and Mission paid for my trip to Boston and my Aunt Kitty paid for me to fly to Arkansas to see my youngest son, two granddaughters and a grandson I had yet to hold or hug.  We had no money for my wife to travel, we desperately needed a new car, the house had to be rewired, we needed serious plumbing repairs, and a good friend in Arusha with 25 orphans was in serious financial trouble.  For sixteen months, we had not had a single overnight visitor at Maisha Na Maji.  In September of 2013, my 98-year-old mother passed away and left us enough money for a new car, plumbing repairs, rewiring the house, and we were able to help my friend in Arusha.  In October of 2013, a group of Australian Anglicans came to stay for a week to do construction work on a new vocational school in Bunda.  In November, my cousin Charles and his wife Adrienne came for a one-day visit and left having given new shoes for all the orphans we support and financial support for the schools we had started as well as money for gifts of goats to widows (and other gifts as well—such wonderful people).  Also in November, a missionary in Musoma with a very good car, moved back to the States and sold us his car (thanks to money from my Mom’s estate).  In November, too, we got an order for 50 biosand filters to be built and installed in the schools in Nansio with Shaban going there and teaching for a week.  Since then, Karen and I have gotten new passports, new residence permits (after waiting since December of 2012) and John’s is in the works.  Karen was able to use estate money for a six-week trip back to the U.S. for a visit with her remaining brother, and to spend almost a month with her granddaughters, her new grandson (that she has now held and hugged), as well as spending time with our youngest son, his wife, and many of her former teacher friends, and also made visits to some of the churches who have been supporting us.  She was also able to celebrate her birthday with my son, Chris and his wife Brenda in New York.  About the mission: after sixteen months of not one single overnight visitor, we have had the Australian Anglicans, Canadian/Finnish missionaries and their family, and a group of Bible translators (SIL) from Musoma.  Karen has led one three-day teaching workshop for twenty preschool teachers from our churches, and she has led a three-day sewing workshop for widows who have been given new sewing machines.  We have also had a group called e3 Partners who came to be taught how to make biosand filters, who bought a mold from us, and are now building and placing biosand filters for the Masaai people near Arusha.  We had Finnish evangelists who stayed for a week and brought almost 700 people to Christ in local churches.  We also hosted a retired United Methodist missionary and her friend from the U.S. for a week.  Karen is planning another teaching workshop for two more preschools in July.  Also coming up in July, a small group from the U.S. will be here for ten days teaching singing and music in the Pentacostal churches here in Bunda.  And as if that weren’t enough thank you notes, John is flying back to the U.S. for the first time in eight years to celebrate his birthday with his two brothers before flying back to Arusha to spend a week there helping Pete O’Neal with a new networking program.  Not to mention, that in September, we have another seven-day workshop for thirty people to learn about the medicinal properties of local plants which are free and will mean better health for the poor around us.  Before this, we are trying to get a biosand filter mold to the Congo where a German missionary wants to build and supply biosand filters to the people there who are suffering greatly from the diseases coming from bad water.  Mother’s estate money is now used up, but has provided a new lease on life for our aging mission with not only repairs but also a new refrigerator and windows with glass in them.  John is involved with solar projects, a teaching project with our Canadian missionary friends, and has more work than ever.  Jesus said if a branch is bearing fruit, it will be pruned so that it can bear even more fruit.  The pruning wasn’t fun, but oh boy is that branch called Maisha Na Maji ever bearing more fruit that we ever dreamed.  No one for sixteen months and now eleven groups from all over the world in ten months and who knows what else God has planned?  Thank you notes from God?  No one will ever convince me otherwise.
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